TORONTO — As the new coronavirus claims more lives in China, health authorities in this country are trying to reassure Canadians that plans and procedures are in place to protect them.
While no cases have yet been confirmed in Canada, Dr. Peter Donnelly, with Public Health Ontario, said Friday that it is indeed “likely” the coronavirus, which comes from the same family of viruses as SARS, will arrive here.
However, Donnelly added that health officials are much better prepared now than they were in 2003 when SARS killed 44 Canadians. He noted communications are more robust, hospitals have better isolation facilities, and a reliable test is available to detect the coronavirus within 24 hours.
Health officials are also working with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg to develop an even quicker test, and screening measures have been beefed up at major airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. In addition, everyone is being urged to practice good hygiene that helps prevent the transmission of all viruses — washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re sick.
If the coronavirus does come to Canada Donnelly said “it will still be business as normal,” and there will be no mass quarantining of people as authorities have done in Wuhan and at least 12 other Chinese cities populated by more than 36 million people.
China’s National Health Commission reported Saturday that the death toll from the new coronavirus had climbed to 41, with the number of people infected rising to 1,287. And though infection cases are also reported in the United States, France and Australia, the World Health Organization has decided, at least for now, against declaring the outbreak a global emergency.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2020.
— With files from the Associated Press
The Canadian Press
U of T receives $35 million investment to study high-risk pathogens – The Medium – The Medium
Recently, U of T’s Emerging & Pandemic Infections Consortium (EPIC)—a partnership of several GTA public health institutions—announced that the university received a $35 million investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund. The investment, approved on October 4, 2022, contributes to the renovation of the Toronto High Containment Facility (THCF)—a 20-year-old, containment level three research laboratory that allows researchers to study high-risk pathogens—which is in need of modernization.
To gain insight on the THCF, The Medium spoke with U of T Temerty Faculty of Medicine molecular genetics professor, Scott Gray-Owen, who is also the academic director of the THCF and EPIC.
The THCF played a role in isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the first Canadian patients during the Covid-19 outbreak. “This represented one of the first isolations of [SARS-CoV-2] in the world, and definitely the first in Canada. […] It provided us with the seed stock or with the stalk of virus that we could use for research on developing vaccines and immunotherapies and disinfectant technologies,” states Professor Gray-Owen.
“Since [the THCF’s] inception, it’s mostly been focused on pathogens such as HIV and tuberculosis, but also has been involved in response to the first SARS outbreak in 2003, [the] West Nile Virus, and other pathogens that represent a great risk to humans,” explains Professor Gray-Owen, going over the THCF’s research initiatives. He continues, “[The THCF] supports academic research, clinicians, scientific research by government agencies, and [industry] research on high-risk pathogens that we have to keep secure, both for the person working with [them] and for the public and the environment.”
Currently, the THCF is a containment level three facility, thus providing researchers with a laboratory to study high-risk pathogens in the GTA. However, for the THCF to operate safely and securely, strict procedures and regulations must be followed. “The regulatory requirements and the physical requirements of working in this facility are difficult,” says Professor Gray-Owen. Additionally, regulatory requirements for containment facilities are different from what they were 20 years ago, and the aging THCF needs revamping to ensure compliance with current and future regulations.
Professor Gray-Owen contends that the benefits of modernizing the THCF include not only an increased capacity to work with high-containment pathogens, but the possibility for researchers to work on more types of pathogens—many of which the facility is not able to work with right now. He also points out that “The new facility will be double the size of the current facility, but we’ll be able to increase the capacity much more than that.” For instance, the new facility brings together different workspaces that are currently located far apart, making it easier for researchers to study a variety of pathogens.
Furthermore, the new facility will allow researchers to better understand emerging infectious threats before they arrive in Canada or start to spread. “It will allow us to look at pathogens that are problems endemically, or in small regions in the world, which we’re afraid might become bigger problems in the future,” says Professor Gray-Owen.
In a study published November 10, 2022, on the journal of Nature Microbiology, EPIC member Samira Mubareka, clinician scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute and associate professor at U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, was part of a team of researchers who revealed a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Canadian deer. Professor Gray-Owen states that there are reservoirs in animal populations that allow for pathogens to evolve and create new variants, which can spill over into humans. He addresses the impact of Professor Mubareka’s research by highlighting the concept of One Health, which puts forth that human health is intricately related to the environment and wildlife.
As such, Professor Gray-Owen emphasizes that studying infectious diseases is difficult. “We’re studying two biological systems, we are studying humans or animals and virus or bacteria or fungi in their different biological systems; we are studying them on population levels—the populations of bacteria [and] viruses and populations of humans; and we are studying them from a molecular level or societal level.” Regardless, the modernized facility will allow researchers to work towards future pandemic prevention.
HIV/AIDS progress in Brazil
December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness and show support for those living with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Treatment of HIV/AIDS has come a long way since the first cases became public in the 1980s.
And Brazil is one country that led the way; its pioneering programs to identify and treat patients recognized the world over.
In recent years, however, the country’s progress has shown to be slipping.
Early RSV season primarily impacts infants
Dear Doctors: What can I do to protect my baby from RSV? What are the symptoms? People are talking about a “tripledemic,” and it has my husband and me worried. We’re both vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19, and we are being super careful when we’re out and about. What else can we do?
Dear Reader: RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus. It’s a common winter virus that can affect people of any age. In most cases, RSV infection causes mild symptoms similar to the common cold. However, infants and children younger than 2, whose immune systems are still developing, are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill.
RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and young children in the United States. It is also the leading cause of bronchiolitis in that age group. That’s a lung infection in which the smallest airways become inflamed and swollen, and an increase in mucus production impedes air flow into and out of the lungs.
This year, as with the flu, RSV season has arrived early. Hospitals throughout the U.S. are reporting a surge of serious infections among infants and younger children.
The virus enters the body through the airways and the mucous membranes. It can remain viable on hard surfaces — such as a doorknob, night table or dinnerware — for several hours. It can also persist on softer surfaces, such as a tissue or the skin. Someone can become infected by breathing in the viral particles that remain airborne following a cough or a sneeze, or by touching their mouth, nose or eyes after direct contact with contaminated droplets.
Someone who is sick with RSV typically remains contagious for between four and eight days. However, due to their still-developing immune systems, it’s possible for infants to continue to spread the virus for several weeks, even after symptoms of the disease have abated. There is no vaccine for this virus, and no targeted treatments. Prevention relies on the same precautions you use to avoid any respiratory illness. That is, keep your baby away from people who are ill, avoid close contact with people outside your home and be vigilant about hand hygiene.
Symptoms of RSV arise between three and six days after infection. They can include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, fever, a decrease in appetite and lung congestion that can cause wheezing. These symptoms tend to be progressive, arriving in stages as the body mounts its attack against the virus. But in very young patients, the first, and sometimes only noticeable, symptoms of RSV can be increased fussiness, a decrease in activity and difficulty breathing.
Treatment for RSV consists of managing symptoms. The specific avenue of care depends on a child’s age, general health and symptoms. In infants, treating RSV includes a focus on adequate hydration and remaining alert for any signs of problems with breathing. The majority of RSV infections run their course in a week to 10 days. Parents of younger infants should check with their pediatricians for guidance on treatment, particularly medications. If your child has difficulty breathing, isn’t drinking enough fluids or has worsening symptoms, call your health care provider right away.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.
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U of T receives $35 million investment to study high-risk pathogens – The Medium – The Medium
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